I've been thinking again.
We live in a culture that doesn't like mistakes. Most of the time, they are either ignored completely (no, really, it's fine), denied, (who, me?)(it was like that when I got here) or they are seen as a terrible thing (failure! idiot!).
None of these views is particularly useful.
It's not that I think mistakes, in and of themselves, are good. If they were, they wouldn't be mistakes, right? But they certainly are useful.
My kids are becoming adults. Not the easiest transition in the world, if I recall correctly. The thing is, when you are a child, your parents fix your mistakes. When you are an adult... nobody fixes them.
When my kids were little, they were, shall we say... stubborn. Hardheaded. Annoying. And they had very strong opinions about things. A whole lot like their parents, in other words. :-)
I used to tell people that I want my kids to grow into adults who can stand up for what is right, who can resist peer pressure, who can make good choices and good decisions. The trouble is, in order for them to be able to do that, they have to LEARN to do that, which means they need to practice it from an early age. And having children who stand up for what they believe, instead of always caving to pressure, from YOU, can be a pain in the butt.
In other words, in order to have strong adults, you must allow them to be strong children. In order for them to make good decisions as adults, they must be allowed to make decisions as a child.
It's a whole lot easier to learn to make good decisions by making bad SMALL decisions, than by making bad BIG decisions. Easier on them and easier on me. So it's important to let them make choices, even if you wouldn't make the same one.
Piled those blocks too high and they fell over? Try again.
Picked something you didn't like for lunch? No big deal.
Didn't wear a warm enough jacket, and got cold? Add a layer next time.
Left food on the counter and the cat ate it? Put it away.
Left a toy on the floor, then stepped on it and hurt your foot? Owie.
Or even: said something that got your friend really mad at you, and now they don't want to be your friend? Learn how to treat people respectfully, and/or learn how to move on.
I'd much prefer those sorts of mistakes than not coming all the way to a stop at a stop sign and causing an "accident," or an unplanned pregnancy, or going out alone in the wrong part of town and getting mugged (or worse), or any number of more serious mistakes.
Little mistakes can usually be fixed, or avoided in the future.
Big mistakes can mess you up for life.
So my theory is this: fail early, and fail often. Let your mistakes guide you to making better choices, better decisions. Help those in your life to be better decision makers by allowing them to make errors when the results won't be dangerous and then help them learn how to deal with those mistakes.
It may be the biggest favor you ever do them, and yourself.